When you plant lettuce in your garden unless you have a huge family or only plant a few seeds you are likely to have a few plants that start to get past their useability stage before you can pick them.
You shouldn’t look at this as a bad thing because those plants will grow seeds that you can use in next years garden to grow a whole new batch of salads.
Harvesting lettuce seed is not really that difficult and only takes an hour or two at the end of the summer.
Like said it is important to have a spot where your plants can grow undisturbed until they grow seeds. This usually takes a good 2 months past your harvest and our spring lettuce was just about ready for seed gathering in the first week of August.
Your plants will grow into small tree forms about 3 feet tall at their highest point. At the top they will begin to grow a flower shape pod that will put off the same type of wind catchers that you see on a dandelion. This is to allow the plant to naturally broadcast its seed and allow new plants to grow next year.
If you did nothing you may find that a few plants would grow in your garden without planting a bed on your own however the placement of the plants would be sporadic.
Luckily even after the wind catchers form and blow away a few seeds each pod will have dozens of seed you can still harvest.
For best results you want to pick the tops off after all of the pods have turned brown and died. This will mean that the seed has matured as much as possible. You may loose a few seeds to the wind but there will be hundreds or thousands to gather.
Simply chop the tops off and bring them to your kitchen table.
Place them on a sheet of newspaper and begin gently crushing the flower pods to gather the seed on the paper.
You will have a good amount of chaff material that you need to remove and separate from the seed. The easiest way to do this is simply by blowing the pile from the bottom of the newspaper to the top while holding up the back edge of the paper.
The heavier seed will slide down the paper and the lighter garbage material will stay at the top. It takes a little practice to get it just right but it really isn’t that difficult.
How To store your seed
Storing seed should be done in the same type container that you purchase your seed in. A small envelope works well or you can use clean unprinted paper and make your own.
Most people that gather seed do not suggest that you store it in a glass or plastic jar or plastic bag because humidity and condensation can form inside the bag which would then cause mold to grow and kill your seed.
I have stored seed in ziplock plastic bags without problem however I live in an area where weather allows this. I also never reuse the bags or add new seed to an old bag.
Take your chances but remember most seed comes in paper… unless you are buying bulk.
The seed that you gather from your garden may not germinate next year if it was harvested from a plant that was genetically modified. .. yes this is a great new trick that seed producers are using to disable your ability to harvest your own seed.
They sell you seed that grows plants similar to a seedless water melon. The seed you end up with is useless for the next season and you have to buy from them… this is one reason that harvesting seed from tomatoes that you buy at the store won’t work… Its pretty sad they do this but they think they own the rights to making food.
So, give it a try and you will get that next step of satisfaction.
The ability to not only grow some food but to gather seed and grow more next year.
And with thousands of seed from just a few plants you can share some.